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April 29th, 2009
10:47 AM ET
April 29th, 2009
06:51 AM ET

A Centrist’s Defense of Obama’s First 100 Days

John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. He writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast and is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "John Avlon was director of speechwriting and deputy director of policy for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign."]

By John Avlon
Special to CNN

Washington’s been crawling with professional partisans who delight in describing the death of President Obama’s post-partisanship at the end of his first 100 days.

For people conditioned to a vision of politics as an ideological blood sport between red states and blue, attempts at building broad coalitions to solve problems can seem saccharine and unsatisfying. Yes, President Obama has found a sometimes rocky transition from the poetry of campaigning to the prose of governing. The rules of Congress are rigged to reward hyper-partisanship, and interest-groups like to pump up the volume in their respective echo chambers.

But President Obama has made a good faith effort to follow through on his promise to end the politics of polarization. It’s only a start – and his rhetoric has often far outpaced his record on this front – but a culture can’t be changed in 100 days. The important thing is for President Obama to keep trying to write the presidential post-partisan playbook – because that’s been the secret of his success to date.

A CNN poll shows that 61% of independents approve of Obama’s job performance, edging toward the administration in the cavernous gap between the extremes. The Gallup Poll shows 62% of independents believe that President Obama is making a sincere effort to work with congressional Republicans, while they see congressional Democrats and Republicans as obstructing bipartisan efforts.

This is far from a blank check for the Obama administration – centrists and independents remain wary of the influence of the liberal House leadership on the Obama legislative agenda, especially on spending and the absence of checks and balances to special interest wish list items. But to this independent observer’s eyes, President Obama has earned a solid B+ in his first 100 days.


Filed under: National Report Card • Politics
April 29th, 2009
06:20 AM ET

What’s on Tap – Wednesday April 29, 2009

The President’s 100th day in office.  How’s he doing so far?  What can we expect in the second 100 days?  From botched appointments, to pirates, to his approach in times of crisis, the President is already revealing how he will lead.  We want to hear how you grade the president.  Call 877-MYAMFIX.

The swine flu source. Confirmed or suspected outbreaks now in nine American states. At least 64 confirmed cases.  Hundreds more suspected here and thousands around the world. 152 deaths in Mexico are now linked to swine flu. And now – we know the source.  He’s being called “patient zero.”  He’s a five-year-old boy who lives tucked away in a small mountain village off a dusty road flanked by pig farms in Mexico.  He survived the earliest documented case of swine flu in an outbreak that, officials say, has now spread across four continents, and CNN found him.

Swine flu stop signal.  The swine flu outbreak in Mexico has caused tourists to cancel or postpone their vacations. Mexico is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world: what impact is this outbreak having on the industry and the overall economy?

Swine flu twitter fog.  Twitter is soaring with posts and chatter about the swine flu.  Some of it is pretty good and useful.   Unfortunately, a lot of it is hype and exaggeration and even false. That is fueling concern that unfiltered talk about the disease will create fear and confusion, as people turn to the hugely popular blogging site for information.

Filed under: What's On Tap
April 28th, 2009
04:30 PM ET

Osama bin Laden dead?

CNN's Nic Robertson reports on Pakistan's president's comment that Osama bin Laden may be dead.
CNN's Nic Robertson reports on Pakistan's president's comment that Osama bin Laden may be dead.

By Nic Robertson
CNN Senior International Correspondent

When I first heard Pakistan's President Asif ali Zardari claim Osama bin Laden was dead, my initial reaction was... Not again?

Zardari was elected last September. I met him the night the votes were counted as he celebrated at a beautiful garden party outside a sparkling palace overlooking the capital. He was charming. His aides told me I could ask one question only, that I'd get a longer interview later. That was seven months ago and I'm still waiting.

I learned then the president's team rarely give him camera time one-on-one with reporters. When faced with three of them Tuesday he appears to have inadvertently stumbled in to creating a headline he didn't intend because barely three hours later his own prime minister contradicted him. He said they have no such evidence Osama bin Laden is dead and wasn't aware of the president's comments.

Before Zardari came to office his predecessor's officials regularly briefed reporters bin Laden was dead. Why? To deflect criticism the al Qaeda leader may be hiding in Pakistan. They would tell us they had no information about him therefore he must be dead. They'd often follow that with a line about, well if the CIA knows where he is in Pakistan why don't they tell us.

President Zardari appeared to be treading perilously close to those same confusing statements. The trouble is when a head of state says bin Laden is dead it is hard to ignore. For many observers of Pakistan's often tumultuous politics the bin Laden news spike has the hallmark of a disconnect between the country's two leading men that they say is indicative of the country's faltering politics. Not that these two good friends are falling out just they seem out of step when the country and the world are looking to them for a coherent path forward against the growing menace of an emboldened Taliban.

The read I have is that if bin Laden were dead, which I hasten to add we have no evidence for at this stage, President Zardari is unlikely to be the one to break the news to the world. The al Qaeda leader still has enough supporters in this country that if Pakistan were hinted to have a hand in his demise the backlash would last for weeks.

The only caveat I offer is that Osama bin Laden is a big dark secret and any time, any day we may learn he has met his maker, but expect a few more false starts before that happens.

Filed under: Osama bin Laden • Pakistan
April 28th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

We Listen!

Here’s your daily recap of the best feedback we got from YOU today. Continue the conversation below. And remember, keep it brief, and keep it clean. Thanks!

Reaction to the low flying planes over New York and New Jersey elicited mixed response by viewers. Some were deeply concerned about the event taking place without warning, causing “public alarm.” Others felt “there are a bunch of whiners living in New York” who need to “grow up, quit whining and move on” from the tragedy of 9/11.

  • Raymond: I certainly understand the public alarm created by the “photo-op flyover”. Nine eleven will always be a “watershed” incident for our nation, and it is obvious that more thought and judgment should have preceded the incident as it was being conceived. In fact, only last night I met a gentleman who was with the NYFD as it responded to the tragedy, and the pain and horror he felt then and still feels even now, was evident ,”in spades”. However, I do hope that there were also New Yorkers who, when they looked up and saw a large commercial type aircraft flying low over Lower Manhattan, also noted that there was a jet fighter plane right on the tail of the large aircraft. A moment or two of reflection on the situation should have resulted in one of two possible conclusions being reached. One, that the fighter was a valid escort; or two, that the large aircraft was about to receive a rocket in the rear; and that, yes, our government is trying to look after us!
  • Ken: Your story about all the upset people over a plane flying over New York reinforces for me that there are a bunch of whiners living in New York. So are planes to never fly over New York again? Look at all the other people in this world who have had bad stuff happen to them. Grow up, quit whining & move on.

Recognizing that Americans are still very sensitive to the tragedy of 9/11, do you believe NY / NJ overreacted to seeing the low flying planes in their skies? How would you have reacted in a similar situation?


Filed under: We Listen
April 28th, 2009
01:08 PM ET

Longtime GOP Sen. Arlen Specter becomes Democrat

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "Sen. Arlen Specter was expected to face a tough primary challenge in 2010."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Veteran Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter told colleagues Tuesday that he switched from the Republican to the Democratic Party, Sen. Harry Reid says.

The Specter party switch would give Democrats a filibuster-proof Senate majority of 60 seats if Al Franken holds his current lead in the disputed Minnesota Senate race.

"Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right," Specter said in a statement posted by his office on

"Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans."


Filed under: Politics
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